Sunday, June 30, 2013

Long weekend in Warrnambool

Strange name - Warrnambool, what does it mean. It's believed that it comes from the indigenous Australian's word for "land between two rivers". That could be the case as the town is situated between the Merri and Hopkins rivers as they make their way to the ocean.

In the past I've been to Warrnambool several times but you tend to forget and as you mature, you look at things differently. Always in the back of our minds, we are always considering the prospect of retiring from the city and Warrnambool is not outside our thoughts. It would need to offer a lot as Launceston, Tasmania is still high on the list.

Warrnambool has a maritime history, the ocean and some rich architecture from its founding years. It currently has a population of 34,000 and I expect that this grows dramatically during the holiday seasons.

The south west coastline of Victoria has much to offer in tourism, the Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and the many rural towns along the way. We took the short route along the Princes Highway via Colac, Camperdown and Terang. I remember these towns from the 1980s when I rode the classic Melbourne to Warrnambool 165 mile cycling road race.
Driving was much less strenuous. However I did arrive quite tired just the same. We did a few circuits of the town before booking into our Motel just to acquaint ourselves with the town.

Warrnambool is famous for many things in its history but the main reason for Sue was the whale watching and fortunatly for her, she wasn't disappointed, nor was I.

I've had to enlarge this shot many times - the best I could get. The mother and calf were just rolling with the waves up and down the bay.
So after a very nice breakfast at a local cafe on Saturday morning, we drove down to Logans Beach where you might just be lucky to spot a Southern Right Whale with a calf just rolling with the waves.
And we were lucky because there she was, it looked like a reef, or rocks causing a slight disturbance in the sea. It was no more than 100 metres from the beach. On closer observation we discovered the movement. Sue had brought binoculars and had this great view of mother and calf and I'm afraid my photos don't do it justice but, can I say - we were there!!!

After Whale watching we took off to Port Fairy via Koroit. The town of Koroit is Irish based and known for its potato growing in years gone by. Its a nice little interlude on the way to Port Fairy. It has a great hotel with art nouveau architecture and many other interesting buildings worth a visit.

Koroit was a very Irish populated town in fact so was a lot of the district.
How far to Kilkenny and Cork?

Port Fairy is a fishing village from early days and a prominent whaling port. After seeing the mother and her calf at Logans Beach, I have to say that I'm very proud of Green Peace and the Australian Government standing strong against the Japanese whaling in the Great Southern Ocean. These species are starting to re-establish their numbers from possible extinction. Please take the time to research what the Japanese are doing to the eradication our whale population.

Today Port Fairy has a very strong sailing club, a very well attended Folk Festival  and a very  relaxing community that one could warm to.
The town has a few Pubs as many early Australian communities do. But in the country centres, much of the early architecture and features remain such as this lead light window.
This building housed a gourmet food product store - Sue went balistic.
I bought some wine. Its nice to know that these things are available in the rural districts.
Port Fairy retains some of Victoria's earliest examples of architecture, stretching from Georgian to Victorian, Edwardian and Art Nouveau. Oh yes and some of todays very modern homes.
Port Fairy turned our heads and took our hearts. Its a beautiful seaside village with population of around 3000 but grows over the year with its many festivals. It has a folk, blues festival in March and later in the year, a classic music festival. Somewhere in between it also has a festival of words where writers come to talk about their books - oh yes and there are book sales as well.

Up the road in Koroit - they have their Irish Festival. That means lots of Guinness, and things to do with potatoes.

On the way back to Warny (read that as Warrnambool) we stopped at Tower Hill. Are we so glad we did?
Tower Hill is an unbelievable piece of geological history. It is an extinct volcano that possibly erupted as the local indigenous people roamed this land. Today it is a national park and has a one way road that allows you to enjoy the base of the crater. Today it is home to emus, kangaroos, swamp birds and so many other local wildlife.
To the left is the wall of the extinct volcano
Looking down into the crater
Today it is the protected sanctuary to many of our local wildlife.

And the home of much wetland bird life.
We decided that although we were tired, we would finish our day with a walk around Warrnambool's Maritime Museum - Well there was dinner to come at a rather special Warrnambool restaurant.
The Maritime Museum is actually rather special as it gives a fascinating incite to the districts founding years and the many shipwrecks on the treacherous coast of the southern ocean.

Ducks on the pond and all Sue could think of was Confit Canard.
I hope we don't need this gentleman's services for some years to come.
And as our day drew to a close, a rainbow appeared on the horizon.
Flagstaff Hill and the reproduced maritime village on 10 acres of land deserves a few hours to reflect on the pioneering spirit of the people that populated the village in the mid to late 1800s.
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived and it only allowed an hour before they closed the gates but it was well worth the short visit - after all, we had packed so much into one day - Whale watching, Koroit, Port Fairy, Tower Hill and Warrnambool's Maritime Village, not to discount a wonderful meal at one of Warrnambool's lovely restaurants. Hmmm yes, another one for the list of retirement choices.

We went back to Logan's Beach to say goodbye to the mother and her calf and she waved goodbye and wished us a safe journey - hope they have the same with those Japanese whalers out there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Long Weekend in Warrnambool

I just needed to get away from work for awhile - Sue noticed, so she organised a long weekend away.
Warrnambool is on the Victorian south west coast. Migrating whales frolic near Warrnambool's beaches as they head south. It is the home of one of the worlds oldest one day bike races - the Melbourne to Warrnambool. I rode it a few times in my younger years. Only 245 kms.
It holds an annual steeplechase race - not so popular these days with those who are not into horse racing.
Today it has a population of 34,000 and is a growing community. Might even be a place to consider for retirement - we'll see.

Hope we get the chance to see a Southern Right Whale this weekend at Warrnambool.
We'll tell you more about Warrnambool on Monday - it will be full of stories about the history, food, wine and activities. Can't wait to take off in the morning.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wednesdays in Italy

Memorials in Rome
 People rush by in a blur. Maybe its just a daily pass by for them
but not for us.
It's all an experience, a time to wonder why, when, who and what
this memorial is all about.
We saw a few of these in our time in Rome
and took a moment to stop and wonder.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Melburn - Roobaix.

I guess you all know I'm a bit of a bike tragic - sorry no apologies there. So is my 92 year old father although he now rides his stationary bike and so doesn't fall off anymore.
Father and son

Well I afraid that this weekend's post is about cycling, but its also about family, friends and Melbourne.
Last year we entered a freaky, weird and absolutely hysterical ride called, Melburn-Roobaix.
It's a play on the classic French bike race from Compiegne to Roubaix, France or its other title, "Hell of the North". The French version runs through the ancient cobblestone roads of northern France.

We did start out this morning in 3 degrees but the forecast was optimistic later in the day. It started with Mitchy and I having a coffee while waiting for the crew to turn-up. They didn't, we were at the wrong starting point. Rush our coffee down and meet the rest at the OTHER place. Made it just in time.

The start. Registration had very long lines but we did get the opportunity to chat with total strangers and view some very zany costumes.
Three of the 17 Stueys.
Having a drink with Stuey
Our one runs through the bluestone laneways of northern Melbourne. Unlike our French counterpart, we stop for a coffee, then maybe a nice lunch washed down with a dark ale at one of the many pubs along the way.
The family part was that I had Mitchell my 25 year old son with me, the friends part was that I had 15 or more of my cycling group - so how good is that?
I should mention that Melbourne is currently in the depths of winter - our shortest day even!!! We enjoyed a cloudless blue sky, a 15 degree windless day to ride the event.

RIDE SAFE HAVE FUN is a great motto for what is a very fun day.
People dress up in all sorts of garb - you wonder how they can actually ride when you see people like this couple.
Over 3000 arrived at the finish at the old Brunswick Velodrome.
Everyone was in a quandary this year about a theme for our group. It was Friday night when my good friend Darren arrived around for dinner and Champagne Friday with 17 photos of Stuart O'Grady. For those who don't know, the freckled one, Stuey was the first Australian to win the Paris to Roubaix classic.
So we were all commemorating his great win by being Stuey.
It was truly amazing. As we passed the various groups, we would be greeted by people yelling out "Stuuuuuuey" - I think we did him proud.

Yep, that's me being kissed by the podium girls.
PS: On the foodie side - Sue had a quail pasta dish with a south of France white wine for dinner for her cycling boys. Ahhh - time to relax in front of the tellie. Don't you love Sunday nights.

Also I'm very tired now so Goodnight and hope your weekend was also fun.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wednesdays in Italy

The Campo de Fiori - Field of Flowers
We stayed here for a whole week just absorbing the goings on in the square. Our apartment door opened up on the Campo. Breakfast, and dinner on occasions, or just a glass of wine mid-arvo was enjoyed.
The morning market filled the square in the mornings. As the market leftovers were cleared away the lunch time trade filled the cafes. Night time brought the young out to enjoy the balmy evenings.

With his back turned to us, Philosopher Giordano Bruno looks down on the people walking by. Most of us unaware that he was burned at the stake for heresy at this very spot - just for saying that the earth revolved around the sun.
Blood stained the cobblestones of the square with murders and executions in Medieval and Renaissance Rome.
The Campo de Fiori - not always a field of flowers.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Motorbikes and Bicycles

On Friday I promised something about motor bikes. Its connected with cycling "naturally". I'm currently restoring a pre-war motor pace bicycle. These particular bicycles were used to pace behind huge specialist motor bikes at speeds exceeding 60 mph (100 kph) on great big saucer banked tracks.

Somehow out there in cyberspace, my restoration came to the attention of a person who was restoring a pace motorbike that quite possibly (or not) may have paced my bike. My bike is from the pre-war period - the motor bike was in action up until 1955. It is a 1919 Excelsior Big X and has an illustrious history of motor pacing over many decades of Australian cycling between the two world wars and a little after.

The frame is now repainted as it was when it was built. It is of a per-war  period and most likely raced at the Melbourne Motordrome and later at the North Essendon board track after World War II.

The Bob Findlay 1919 Excelsior Big X pace bike that led great Australian cyclists such as Hubert Opperman, Fatty Lamb and many others to victory at speeds in excess of 60 mpg.
The Excelsior has been meticulously restored for the second time in the hands of the owner David Kimber.
David bought it many years ago from the original owner Bob Findlay who he says was like a Grandfather to him. They were neighbours.
The very long handlebars enabled the rider to sit well back. The rider, wearing overalls would leave them open so that the wind would be caught and balloon out the overalls. This gave the rider behind greater wind protection.
A fully restored motor pace bicycle was on show behind the Excelsior to illustrate how the combination of bike and motorbike interacted on the big saucer tracks. This bike was owned by a friend, Eric Bishop. What is so special about this example is that it belonged to Eric's father.
Pictures from the Past

The Melbourne Motordrome where Bob Findlay excited capacity crowds with dare devil cyclists  at speeds exceeding 60 mph.

It was a great afternoon being invited to David Kimber's special moment of the relaunch of the Bob Findlay Excelsior big X motor pace motorcycle. Maybe I can one day ride my pace bicycle behind his motorcycle pace bike.

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's what we call Champagne Friday

A tradition in the Sims household is Champagne Friday but I think the French may not like me calling it that if it's not a real French Champagne.
SO, none of our bubblies can have that title. This Friday on the way home I purchased a Yarra Burn 2008 Blanc de Blancs from the Yarra Valley not far from Melbourne. Dame Nellie Melba, the famous Australian opera singer had a property in the area. It was one those first wine growing districts in Victoria and the Swiss family de Castella planted some of the first vines.

From the Yarra Burn website
Made entirely from Chardonnay, the Yarra Burn Blanc de Blancs is crafted from premium cold climate vineyards in the Upper Yarra Valley. Grapes were hand harvested to ensure elegance of structure, then after winemaking, aged on lees for 4 years. The result is an outstanding sparkling Blanc de Blancs exhibiting true Yarra Valley terroir.

With the weekend coming up, I wonder what Monday's post will bring - I may have a surprise in store for people who like motor bikes. Something of a rarity has been restored and I'm off to a launch party to see it fire up. I'm also taking something that I'm restoring that is connected to its past.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wednesdays in ITALY

Back in 2006, we took our "Once in a Lifetime" holiday to France and Italy
Little did we know at the time that we would return many times to France
We never did go back to Italy despite its charms
But in 2014 - all going well, we'll be back.
So - for a little while
Wednesdays in France
will become
Wednesdays in Italy.

We aim to return to Tuscany with friends and our bikes to ride the L' Eroica - Strada Bianca.
The white roads of Tuscany.

As we passed the French border from Menton, 
we drove to Viareggio not far from Lucca in Tuscany.
The son of the owners in the hotel where we stayed
had been to Australia several times.

Only 15 months before we return to France and Italy.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Walk in the City

It's a long weekend here in Melbourne. Why? Well you might well ask, the answer confuses me!
We celebrate the second weekend in June for the Queen's Birthday. Most of you would realise that it's not really Lizzie's birthday, that's passed. I really don't have an explanation as to why we celebrate on this particular weekend. It is the opening of the ski season so maybe we just need a long weekend to get to the Alps. Not much snow at this time of the year really but it does give those Skiing folk a chance to play merry I guess.

As we parked and alighted from the car, I took this photo of architecture in Elizabeth Street.
I must admit that Melbourne has some great architecture - although we have destroyed a great deal as well.

As for Sue and I, well the bathroom renovation saga slowly grinds along but we thought we might just pop in to the Melbourne CBD. As you know, we call the blog - "Melbourne - Our Home by the Bay", but really, we are around 20 kms out of the city proper. We hardly go to town and although it has much to offer, we realised today that we are not big city people. Our retirement dream of Launceston on the apple isle of Tasmania is looking a little more promising after today.

I said to Sue that I would like to wander down the historic arcades of Melbourne. Royal and Block arcades take you from Bourke Street to Collins Street and you can continue down the laneways to Flinders Street and the Yarra River.

We parked the car at the top end near Bourke Street and then entered the Royal arcade from Elizabeth Street. The Royal Arcade was built in 1869. It has a high glass roof and the most magical shops. Towards one end of the arcade it has the mythical figures of Gog and Magog and between the two is a huge clock the charms on the hour.

As you walk through Royal Arcade you pass by the mythical figures above and into Collins Street. Across the road is the Block Arcade. To the right just happen to be a red Ferrari parked outside (where else but) Tiffany and Co. Obviously on on our budget it was but at least worth a peruse. Block Arcade has this black and white mosaic floor and above a glass and wrought iron canopy. It reminds us of the covered arcades of Paris. In fact further up Collins Street is known as the Paris end of Melbourne.

Shabby and need a need paint job, this building is in the laneway of Little Collins Street.
And next door to the one above is this building - if you enlarge you will see it reads - "The City of Melbourne Building", why I do not know!

Block Arcade I believe gained its name by the fact that early Melburnians would promenade around the block in the late 1800s, early 1900s. A little further on as you walk towards the Yarra and Flinders Street it becomes a much more bohemian with little coffee shops and some very creative graffiti.

Don't get us wrong, we love Melbourne, but today told us that a change is in the wings. Melbourne is a great city for the young but for us - we need a tree/sea change. After escaping the big smoke, we drove down to Middle Park, a suburb of Melbourne not far from the bay. There's a special little wine bar there that I've taken Sue to on various occasions. A very nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc awaited us and I purchased a Tassie Pinot Noir to go with the chicken dish she had in mind for Sunday night's meal.

 A Sunday night movie and off to bed - YES, tomorrow is a holiday day....